By Derek Bonnett:
At the Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama two intriguing match-ups prepared fans for the main event between Deontay Wilder and Gerald Washington. The first was a key heavyweight bout between former heavyweight title challenger Dominic Breazeale and well-kept secret Izuagbe Ugonoh of Poland. The second was a great 154-pound clash for a vacant alphabet title formerly held by Jermall Charlo, who is now looking to campaign as a full middleweight. Neither bout disappointed in terms of momentum shifts and drama and were the perfect appetizer for the main course later in the evening.
Poland’s Ugonoh, 30, got a late start to boxing after showing promise with the use of his feet in the kickboxing world. His start against Breazeale showed early promise as well as Ugonoh easily took the first two rounds from the former Olympian. Ugonoh let his hands go from the opening bell and did some magnificent work to the soft body of Breazeale, who was immediately bothered. Breazeale started finding his timing in round two and he looked to be setting himself up for another hard night similar to his victory over Amir Mansour in 2016. Ugonoh’s jabs kept Breazeale on the losing end of things until round three when the American fighter dropped him for a quick count. Ugonoh showed poise rising to his feet and landing some hard shots to get himself back into the round, but Ugonoh was badly hurt to the body at the bell. He fell to his knees in his own corner, but it was not official because it happened after the bell. Through bruised eyes, Breazeale pressured on to finish his foe and he looked close several times. Ugonoh managed to survive though and dropped Breazeale for his own count in round four. Breazeale looked beaten, but Ugonoh looked exhausted. Neither man was hard to find, but both struggled to summon the combination to end matters until the fifth. Breazeale dropped Ugonoh twice in round five. First a right hand dropped Ugonoh and then a follow-up barrage sent him outside the ropes when the bout was halted at :50 of the fifth.
Breazeale, 31, showed heart and will continue to get good fights with his drama-filled performances. He lifted his record to 18-1-0 (16). Ugonoh will have a tougher round to re-establish himself and fell to 17-1-0 (14). Round three of this bout should contend for 2017’s Round of the Year.
Also in Birmingham, Jarrett Hurd, 26, filled Jermall Charlo’s vacant title with a ninth round TKO of Tony Harrison in a bout he fell behind in early. Both fighters showed tremendous patience trying to establish smart jabs in spite of their reputations as bigger punchers in the division. Harrison was collected, but he worse a look of concern the whole night that he might revisit his rough moments against Willie Nelson from back in 2015 when he suffered his first loss. He was pacing himself and doing well with a strong jab, but his nervous energy tired him and allowed Hurd to narrow the gap on the scorecards. Scores would be meaningless in the end though as Hurd found his stride after round six and began hurting Harrison along the ropes. A straight right hand hurt Harrison and another dropped him later in the round for a hard fall. Harrison rose and was about to be allowed to continue, but he spit out a mouthful of blood and his own mouthpiece, prompting the referee to take a second look and ultimately call the fight.
Hurd captured his first world championship and raised his numbers to 20-0-0 (14). Harrison, a loser for the second time in a bout he was winning, crashed to 24-2-0 (20).
It’s a good night of boxing when the two openers and eventually the main event presented strong cases for rematches in the future.